Sustainable Urban Development and Urban Farming
Here, we’ll look at some examples of how sustainable urban development has been achieved.
Copenhagen Calms Its Traffic
Recall the "Cycling as a social norm in Copenhagen" video in Module 4. We have seen that getting people to choose transit can be a collective action problem and the choice of transport mode can be supported or constrained by urban design. Here's another video (7:22 minutes) showing the efforts have been made in Copenhagen to ensure that cars do not interfere with people. This approach known as traffic calming has been highly popular in Copenhagen despite it being located in cold, snowy Denmark.
By now, Copenhagen’s traffic calming program has been so successful for so long that people often take it for granted that Copenhagen just is this way. Walking and, in particular, cycling has become very deeply embedded in Copenhagen’s culture. This can be seen in the popular blog Cycle Chic, which looks at the fashions of Copenhagen cyclists. The idea of bicycle chic has spread to other parts of the world, including the United States. All this helps establish walking and cycling as a social norm in Copenhagen, such that people there would find it unusual to drive places.
Curitiba Blossoms With Buses
You may have never heard of it before, but Curitiba, Brazil has the best bus system in the world. The city today has about 2 million people, about the same size as Phoenix, Arizona. Indeed, Curitiba and Phoenix have had about the same population for the last 200 years. But while Phoenix was designed predominantly for the automobile, Curitiba was designed for the bus. Curitiba chose the bus because it could not easily afford to build a subway system. By designing the city around the bus, it found it could get subway-quality performance for a fraction of the cost.
At the heart of Curitiba’s bus system is a series of bus rapid transit routes on dedicated streets going into the city center. These bus lines have stations where passengers pay before getting on the bus, expediting the process considerably. During peak hours, buses run about one minute apart from each other, so riders don’t have to wait a long time. Curitiba zoned the bus lines for high-density development to increase the number of people who could easily ride these buses, thereby making them more effective. Check out the 8:03 minute video below for further details about Curitiba's public transit system:
Bogota Gets Its Exercise
In the American imagination, the South American nation of Colombia is commonly associated with the drug trade. But Colombian drug cartels are fading. Meanwhile, Colombia has been very active in sustainable development. In one example of this, its capital city, Bogota, has emerged as the world leader in weekly car-free events known as Ciclovias.
The Bogota Ciclovia happens every Sunday and holiday. Cars are forbidden or significantly restricted on 120 km (75 miles) of streets. In general, the presence of automobiles on our streets is a threat not only to the environment but also to children and anyone else wishing to use the streets. The streets can then be used safely and comfortably for cycling, walking, and skating. The streets also feature dances, aerobics, and other outdoors activities. The Ciclovia is a way for people from all walks of life to get some exercise and fresh air. Today, similar events can be found across the world, but none are as large as Bogota’s. Watch the following 9:41 minute video about the Bogota Civlovia.
Urban farming can take a variety of forms but, conceptually speaking, it refers to crop and livestock production within cities and surroundings. Urban farming (also known as urban agriculture) takes advantage of every inch of private or public space and can involve anything from rooftop farming to balcony gardening, from farming in parking lots to farming along roadsides. Urban farming plays a large part in contributing to sustainable urban development. As more and more people are living in cities, urban agriculture is emerging as an attractive means of supplying urbanites with food. At the same time, urban farming is an important strategy for reduction of hunger and poverty, improvement in resident health, and climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Detroit (and the state of Michigan generally) makes a good case study for urban agriculture. Watch the short (4:10 minute) video below to see how urban farming as the second green revolution helps communities in food deserts (places with no grocery stores offering fresh produce) access more affordable and healthier food and allows people to make a living by selling their food on local markets.
Urban farming can take place basically anywhere. Check out the 3:24 minute video below and find out interesting facts about growing food in recycled car tires in Haiti. On one side, urban farming is a response to food and livelihood insecurity. On the other side, urban farming grows a greener future because food grown locally requires less transportation (or fewer food miles) and therefore reduces ecological footprint.
Consider This: Urban Agriculture In Cuba
Earlier in this course, we learned that the Green Revolution was, in part, an effort by capitalist countries in the Cold War to get Third World countries to side with them. The Soviet Union was also active in providing agriculture aid to Third World countries such as Cuba.
The world’s largest urban agriculture program comes from Cuba. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, Cuba lost its source of aid and thus faced food shortages. As a way to cope, Cuba turned to urban agriculture as a way to feed itself. This agriculture is performed almost entirely without artificial fertilizers and pesticides, simply because Cuba lacks access to these inputs. In some ways, this makes Cuba’s national agriculture system more sustainable and less vulnerable to disruptions in the supplies of these inputs. On the other hand, this system involves more labor and lower yields than is often found elsewhere. Still, as with Cuba’s overall development, much can be learned from its agriculture system.
Check out this Youtube video by Kitchen Gardeners International (6:05 minutes).
From previous pages, we learned that urban design involves collective action if a city is to be developed in some coordinated fashion. Likewise, the urban sustainable development process involves a mix of government regulations, private market forces, and community self-organization.